It always was a bad idea to have the state of Georgia subsidize our local property tax payments, something begun under Gov. Roy Barnes. It only makes us more dependent on the state, and masks the true cost of local government.
But now that we're addicted to the scheme -- which used to be called revenue sharing -- there's going to be a taxpayer revolt if the state tries to stop it in midstream.
Facing a $1.6 billion hole in the state budget, Gov. Sonny Perdue took a number of steps to fill the hole -- including withholding $428 million in property tax relief for local governments.
The move would cost Augusta and its schools $6 million. And if taxpayers had to fork over the money, it would mean as much as $290 more in property tax for most households in Augusta proper, and $240 for many households in the old county areas.
When that started to become widely known this past week, the seeds of a revolt were sown.
State lawmakers, although they are in-between legislative sessions and in the midst of an election campaign, are well aware of the brewing tax revolt about the countryside. Local governments and tuned-in taxpayers have begun to make it clear to Atlanta that they will not take that $428 million hit -- certainly not alone.
In fact, despite the confusion in Atlanta and the lack of clear direction -- at a time when tax bills are being prepared for the mail -- the Georgia Municipal Association advised its member governments across the state to mail tax bills as usual, as if the $428 million in state subsidies were not in question.
That may be a shrewd move by local governments -- putting the ball back in the state's court. We hope the governor and legislators realize how serious this is, and how the word "revolt" is not an exaggeration.
The state must balance its budget, but it cannot cripple local governments or local property taxpayers in the process.
In the end, the state, local governments and local taxpayers may have to share the pain. But expecting Augusta taxpayers to absorb an additional, unexpected and unlegislated $290 tax bill on top of their existing tax bill is ludicrous. It won't be allowed to happen.
Reports indicate the governor's people and legislative leaders may understand that, and have been in serious talks to resolve the problem without taking a torch to local taxpayers. If they have to go into special session to do it -- election or no -- then so be it. Whatever it takes.
When Speaker of the House Glenn Richardson earlier this year put forth an ill-advised and little-debated plan to have the state take over most taxation in Georgia -- thank the heavens that didn't happen -- a sweeping coalition of groups rose up in unison to oppose it.
Just a warning to the folks at the capitol: Those groups still have each other's e-mail addresses.